August 14, 2013
BlackBerry announced on Monday that its board of directors has formed a special committee and has hired JPMorgan Chase & Co. to explore strategic alternatives that could include joint ventures, strategic partnerships or an outright sale of the Waterloo, Ontario-based company. The news follows declining stock value in the wake of disappointing sales of new devices running BlackBerry 10 and a shrinking customer base for the company that helped pioneer the smartphone market.
According to IDC, BlackBerry once controlled more than 50 percent of the U.S. market for phones that offered email and Web browsing, but now has just 3 percent of the market. IDC also notes that the company’s worldwide smartphone market share for the second quarter was 2.9 percent, down 2 percent from the same period last year.
“BlackBerry’s decision to ‘explore strategic alternatives’ follows the company’s all-out effort to develop new phones and a new operating system fell flat in the wireless market,” reports The Wall Street Journal. “BlackBerry was betting the devices would help it catch up with Apple Inc.’s iPhone and phones running on Google Inc.’s Android software, but they found only tepid interest from consumers when they launched in the spring.”
“That failure — along with a declining share price and shrinking customer base — made clear the company has few options beyond a sale, a person familiar with the matter said.”
BlackBerry’s subscriber base shrank by four million in the quarter that ended in the beginning of June. It lost corporate clients including Halliburton and Home Depot in recent years and suffered recent losses from the government sector it once dominated. The Transportation Security Administration said it would replace BlackBerrys with Apple devices, and the FBI and U.S. Navy are reportedly signing deals with Samsung.
While Apple and Android have been the primary beneficiaries of BlackBerry’s losses, Windows Phones shipments also surpassed Blackberry in the first quarter of 2013.
Analysts suggest the company is worth $3 billion less today than the $8.2 billion it was valued at just three months ago. However… “There are still some potentially attractive assets within BlackBerry if the board is willing to break the company up into pieces,” suggests WSJ. “Analysts generally consider its patent portfolio to be worth around $2 billion, its secure software network has long been considered the industry gold standard, and the company still has about $3 billion in cash.”
While WSJ explores the possibilities of suitors such as Microsoft, Samsung, HTC and Lenovo — CNET questions whether the beleaguered company would find a buyer.
“Industry experts speculate that private equity firms may interested in pooling resources to buy the company,” notes CNET. “Others say the technology may be valuable to some of BlackBerry’s competitors. But one thing is clear: The company is looking desperate. Its precipitous slide in market share as it loses ground to rivals such as Apple, Android, and even Microsoft, is only getting worse. And the company needs to find a way to stop bleeding or risk going the way of other technology companies that have slid into obscurity — for example, think of Palm’s sale to Hewlett-Packard.”
Some suggest that BlackBerry is running out of options and the company’s biggest obstacle may be trying to find a buyer for its handset hardware business.
“Whatever happens with BlackBerry needs to happen fast,” suggests CNET. “The longer the company’s future is uncertain, the more money and customers it will likely lose, lessening its attractiveness to potential buyers.”